NHS weight loss programmes are less effective than commercial brands such as Weight Watchers, researchers have claimed.
A study in Birmingham found that diet and fitness counselling at GP surgeries or pharmacies or from food advisers and dieticians could be a waste of NHS money.
The research involved 740 overweight or obese participants, some of whom attended Weight Watchers, Slimming World, or Rosemary Conley.
Others were put on the Size Down programme run by NHS advisers and dieticians, or were given one-to-one counselling sessions in GP surgeries or pharmacies.
After three months, all programmes had produced weight loss ranging from an average of 1.37kg in the GP group to 4.43kg among the Weight Watchers group.
But the NHS programmes had achieved no better effects than a control group who simply exercised at a local fitness centre.
All of the programmes apart from the GP and pharmacy counselling eventually resulted in significant weight loss after 12 months, the study showed.
The researchers concluded that instead of spending money on weight loss counselling, the NHS should put the cash towards encouraging patients to attend classes run by commercial companies.